, 91:487 | Cite as

“The Partridge” is a phoenix: revising the Exeter Book Physiologus

  • Michael D. C. DroutEmail author
Original Paper


The poem about a bird on folios 97v to 98r of the Exeter Book that has been traditionally called “The Partridge” is unlikely to be about that particular bird and more likely to be about the phoenix. The case for the phoenix is supported by the structure of the Anglo-Saxon Physiologus as a whole, with the “The Panther” representing Christ, or Christ’s death, “The Whale,” the devil or the descent into hell, and the bird poem, Christ’s or man’s resurrection. The appearance of a marvelous odor in the other two Physiologus poems suggests that such an odor would have appeared in the third, also supporting the phoenix as the identity of the bird. If the lines on 97v and 98r are indeed part of the same poem, the presence of the words hweorfan and cyrran in the homiletic passage also supports the link with the phoenix. The use of animal exempla for didactic purposes also links the Physiologus poems to other poems in the Exeter Book (such as the riddles) and to the cultural concerns of the 10th-century Benedictine Reform.


Anglo-Saxon Physiologus Exeter Book Partridge Charadrius Benedictine reform Phoenix 



I would like to thank John Miles Foley, Martin Camargo, Allen J. Frantzen, Patrick Conner, Beatrice Lafarge and most of all Mercedes Salvador for assistance and encouragement.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Wheaton CollegeNortonUSA

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